2017 Farm to School Story Roundup!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By: Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

In 2017, farm to school and farm to early care and education activities took root in all 50 States, D.C., the U.S. Territories, and Native Communities. Some highlights from the year include: STEM lessons in school gardens, students cooking in kitchen classrooms, locally-sourced meals on school lunch trays, community partnerships such as those with master gardens and local non-profits, farm field trips, events during October’s National Farm to School Month, state-level policies supporting farm to school funding, and so much more. Check out this list of farm to school stories representing our entire network to see what farm to school looked liked in 2017!

  • Alabama: In July, Governor Kay Ivey signed a new Farm to School Amendment into law. This bill allows local farmers to sell produce directly to schools, allowing more locally grown produce in school cafeterias. (Yellow Hammer News)
  • Alaska: Fish to School showcases how strategic partnerships benefit the entire community. (Cordova Times)
  • Arizona: Evans Elementary in Tempe, AZ uses horticulture therapy a tool to help students better manage emotional and behavioral issues. (Wrangler News)
  • Arkansas: Students in the Westside High School Agriculture program raise pigs and goats at school to be sold in their community. (KAIT8)
  • California: This fall, the Farm-To-Student Collaborative Program in Marin County, CA supported local sourcing and procurement partnership that make it possible for schools to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers and their very own school gardens. (Patch)
  • Colorado: Farm to Early Childhood and Education in Colorado means that preschoolers are learning hands on farming as tool for preventing childhood obesity. (PBS News Hour)
  • Connecticut: 20 Foodcorps Servicemembers in 15 school districts worked to support healthy school environments in Conneticut. (CT Post)
  • Delaware: “Schoolyard habitat programs like our sensory garden are part of our school’s efforts to go green,” said fourth grade teacher Leona Williams, who worked with Delaware Nature Society naturalists to help design the garden. (Delaware.gov)
  • District of Columbia: Students at the DC Bilingual School benefited from an 8,000-square-foot garden that supports science education, community engagement and outdoor exploration of all kinds. (Huffington Post)
  • Florida: Let the numbers speak. In spring 2017, Broward County Public Schools served over 40,000 pounds of Florida-grown strawberries to Florida students over a two-week period. (South Florida Times)
  • Georgia: Students in Tifton, GA celebrated the 14th annual Children’s Farm Day! Middle and high school students come up with the fundraisers for the event, put the exhibits together, staff the stations and teach third graders about the importance of agriculture. (Tifton Gazette)
  • Guam: From buying local food to planting school gardens to teaching kids where their food comes from, Guam is ‘bringing the farm to school.’ (USDA.gov)
  • Hawaii: Mālama Kauaí designed and implemented a farm-to-school pilot program that prioritize farm-to-school sourcing, reflects local traditions, and includes culturally relevant foods. (Civil Eats)
  • Idaho: There was a lot of buzz in Hailey, ID as Syringa Mountain School incorporated beekeeping into their school garden program. (KMVT)
  • Illinois: Illinois State Senator Pat McGuire visited Tibbott Elementary School in Bolingbrook to observe the school lunch program including the school’s garden and hydroponic veggie tower. (The Herald News)
  • Indiana: Johnson County master gardeners helped plant a new garden at a Greenwood elementary school with the goal of helping students learn about plants and the environment. (Daily Journal)
  • Iowa: This Iowa summer school program gave their students a special treat. They got to taste salsa, pesto, and lemonade made with ingredients they grew all summer, along with using honey from their beehive. (Voice of Muscatine)
  • Kansas: KC Healthy Kids’ Ultimate Eat Local Recipe Challenge gave young cooks a chance to shine. (kchealthykids)
  • Kentucky: Sales of lunches increased 38 percent at Sts Peter and Paul Regional Catholic School after launching a new, farm to table menu. (LexGo)
  • Louisiana: LSU AgCenter hosted a state wide conference dedicated to farm to school initiatives. (The Franklin Sun)
  • Maine: Ten Brunswick High School Students spend three mornings a week getting paid $9/hour to tend their school garden. “They’re learning a work ethic: Show up on time. Commit to the job. Give it your best effort. Take initiative.” (The Forecaster)
  • Maryland: The Carroll County Public School’s garden operates with these goals: teach students about where food comes from, promote healthy eating, and provide food for students and families that are in need. (Carrol County Times)
  • Massachusetts: Since flipping the switch on their new composter in October, Barnstable High School has processed anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds of food waste daily from the 1,100 8th, 9th,and 10th-graders participating in the program. (Cape Cod Times)
  • Michigan: Michigan legislators expanded the 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program for the upcoming school year (GroundWorkCenter.org)
  • Minnesota: In Duluth, new language in the district’s policies and a position dedicated to coordinating the school gardens helped expand farm to school. (Duluth News Tribune)
  • Mississippi: Partnerships are powerful. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce partnered with the Mississippi Department of Education to bring Mississippi Farm to School Week to the state. (MDAC)
  • Missouri: One St. Louis school has a kitchen classroom where all students -preschoolers included- slice, dice, whisk, and bake for an hour a week. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Montana: Trout to tray means that Montana students are raising trout in their school’s aquaponics system to serve a dual purpose - providing nutrients to plants in the greenhouse and becoming a source of food on lunch trays. (Missoulian)
  • Native Communities: At Indian Township School in Maine, the school’s librarian led the school community in planting, harvesting, and finally eating their new three sister’s garden. (NFSN)
  • Nebraska: Students at Overton and Litchfield public schools were fed homegrown beef and pork as they launched Nebraska Thursdays as part of National Farm to School Month. (Kearney Hub)
  • Nevada: Farm to school programs can be seen as a tool to addressing food insecurity through a two-pronged approach that addresses the immediate need to feed people and systemic problems related to nutrition. (Las Vegas Sun)
  • New Hampshire: New Hampshire master gardeners and the University of New Hampshire Extension Services offered free seeds to school and youth gardens around the state. (Valley News)
  • New Jersey: September’s Back-to-school night at Kings Road School featured a special reception where parents could visit the school’s communal garden and enjoy homegrown treats before the evening’s events began. (TAPinto.net)
  • New Mexico: Stakeholder from throughout New Mexico celebrated their many local food successes at the second annual Farm to School Awards (Green Fire Times)
  • New York: Farm to school is a vehicle for change. In the poorest congressional district in America, these Bronx schools are growing a lot of food alongside healthy attitudes. (MBGplanet)
  • North Carolina: Teams in nine North Carolina counties joined the NC Farm to Early Care and Education (NC Farm to ECE) Initiative. This program connects local farms and early childhood and education centers throughout the state. (NC State Extension)
  • North Dakota: Bob Drees and his family farm hosted fourth-graders from Thompson and Grand Forks. It's the fourth year he's brought school kids to his farm to help them learn more about modern agriculture. (West Fargo Pioneer)
  • Ohio: This fall the National Farm to School Network announced that Ohio State University Extension will be the local host for the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference April 25-27, 2018 in Cincinnati, OH. (NFSN)
  • Oklahoma: Three Norman schools held a Green Schools Summit, which included discussions on food waste reduction and school gardens. (Norman Transcript)
  • Oregon: Unanimous support from the Oregon House, Senate, and Governor passed House Bill 2038 allocating $4.5 million for schools to continue to buy Oregon-grown and processed foods and to support agriculture- and garden-based education. (KATU)
  • Pennsylvania: Once overrun with weeds, Pinehurst Elementary School’s PTA adopted the community garden in front of their school and transformed it into an outdoor classroom for several classes a day in all subjects. (The Pilot)
  • Puerto Rico: Los estudiantes de Puerto Rico cuentan con un nuevo recurso educativo que visita las escuelas, ofrece clases de cocina, los orientan sobre los alimentos sanos, los ayudan a la elaboración de un huerto escolar y también los llevan a fincas agrícolas para realizar recorridos guiados. (endi)
  • Rhode Island: School gardens align with Next Generation Science Standard. In Rhode Island, schools gardens used to promote an “authentic learning experience”. (South County Life Magazine)
  • South Carolina: For the third year in a row, kids throughout Greenville County, SC participated in the Healthy Lunchtime Throwdown, which challenges students to create their favorite healthy recipe for a chance to have it appear on menus throughout the school district. (Greenville News)
  • South Dakota: Yankton Boys & Girls Club started a kids garden club in June, and they plan to to grow potatoes in pots indoors this winter. (Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan)
  • Tennessee: Bolton High students are maintaining their own garden and harvesting fruits and vegetables to feed food insecure families in their community. (WREG)
  • Texas: STEM skills blossom in school gardens. Students can see season change, grow food to learn plant cycles, and observing pollinator habitat in the garden. (Community Impact)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: The V.I. Department of Agriculture worked to establish a sustainable Grower’s Collaboration Program with the goal of operating in partnership with farm to school and Harvest of the Month programs. (St. John Source)
  • Utah: Third grade students at Canyon Elementary School in Spanish Fork ‘crunched’ into Utah-grown apples while participating in an event to highlight proper nutrition with the Utah County Health Department and Utah Farm Bureau Federation. (Daily Herald)
  • Vermont: Policy change alert! In June, Governor Phil Scott signed a new bill, which further enhances Vermont’s farm to school programming by expanding the program and setting new, ambitious goals for growth. (VT Digger)
  • Virginia: During National Farm to School Month, students at Virginia L. Murray Elementary School celebrated Virginia Farm to School Week by participating in the "Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth," a synchronous eating of Virginia apples. (Charlottesville Today)
  • Washington: Native plants were included in this Washington school garden. “The plants were chosen for their identification and educational opportunities, significance to Native American culture, and to most please the children, many of the plants will have edible fruit.” (Island Sounder)
  • West Virginia: Students at Marlowe Elementary School in Martinsburg rolled up their sleeves to create their own herb garden, whose harvest will be used in their own school cafeteria. (The Journal)
  • Wisconsin: Holmen School District served students at all six of its schools a lunch of student-raised chicken served alongside local fruits and vegetables. More than 3,000 portions of chicken were served for Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, a partnership of the Holmen High School FFA and the La Crosse County Farm2School program. (La Crosse Tribune)
  • Wyoming: Celebrations were held in Lander to introduce the community to this kid’s garden, which is the first of more to come in the Fremont County School District. (KCWY)

The National Farm to School Network wishes you a happy, healthy holiday season. We cannot wait to plant more seeds of change with you in 2018!

Youth empowerment through farm to school

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

At our 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in June 2016, LaDonna Redmond gave keynote remarks focused on ending systemic oppression in the food system. In her address, she urged the audience to understand that “every community has the intellect to heal itself.” She explained that the role of individuals working within farm to cafeteria is to use our skillset to uncover the intellect in our communities so that people believe in themselves. What if this approach was seriously considered within farm to school and farm to early care and education work? What would it look like for youth to be leading the movement?

Many organizations throughout the country focus on youth leadership as a way to further farm to school efforts.  In our most recent Trending Topics: Youth Engagement through Farm to School Webinar, our network highlighted three organizations that put youth empowerment front and center in their work:

  • YES! Youth Empowered Solutions: Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) is a nonprofit organization that empowers youth, in partnership with adults, to create community change.
  • Alameda County Office of Education’s Project EAT:  Project Eat works to end health inequities and close the achievement gap in school communities.
  • Vermont FEED’s Jr. Iron Chef VT: This statewide culinary competition challenges teams of middle and high school students to understand how they can effect change in the food system by creating healthy, local dishes that inspire school meal programs.

Mary Beth Louks-Sorrell, Executive Director for YES! highlighted that when youth are not included, “One fourth of the population is being ignored, instead of tapped for their potential to contribute to improving things.” Additionally, Mary Beth offered up a set of best practices to consider before starting work with youth, including asking these questions:

  • What will be the role of youth in your work?
  • What do you hope to achieve from the inclusion of youth
  • Why are you interested in the thoughts, ideas, input, and leadership of youth?
  • What are some ways you might envision the way you and your organization operates or the direction of the work changing once youth are involved?

Vermont FEED’s School Food Programs Coordinator, Marissa Watson commented on the importance of holding space for kids to participate, stating that, “school food change takes many players: students, food service, parents, and the community.”
Kate Casale from Alameda County’s Office of Education explained that including youth as leaders within farm to school work is a perfect opportunity to tap into their creativity and innate interest in justice. She also reminds us about the importance of letting youth tell their stories in their own words.

Jason, a seventeen year old from the program Bronx Youth Force explains, “If you had a problem in the Black community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact, there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same for women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us.”

Young people are the changes makers of tomorrow, and today. Their ideas, contributions and voices are invaluable to the work of growing more just and equitable food systems, and we should always be conscious to have a place for them at the table.

Appetite For Change is a North Minneapolis nonprofit organization that uses food as a tool to build health, wealth and social change. "Grow Food" is the culminating project of Appetite For Change's Summer 2016 Youth Employment & Training Program. Urban Youth wanted to share their message - the importance of actively choosing healthy foods - with their peers in a fun, accessible music format. Learn more about Appetite For Change here.

If you are interested in learning more about youth leadership within farm to school and the local food movement, we invited you to join us at the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio in April 2018. An entire conference workshop track is dedicated to “Youth Leadership and Engagement” within the farm to cafeteria movement, and we’d love to have you be part of the conversation!

Photo Credits (from top to bottom): Vermont FEED and Alameda County Office of Education (middle and bottom).

Food is Culture and Celebration!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

When I think about food, especially during the holiday season, I think about my traditions with family and friends. From holidays to birthdays and reunions, food has always been a central part of my celebration of life events. In the recently published New York Times Op-ed titled Feeling Conflicted on Thanksgiving Viet Thanh Nguyen explains, “DNA, in any case, tells us little about culture. Food tells us more.“ Farm to school is as much about food, culture, and celebration as it is about education, health and access.

Schools and early care settings across all 50 states, D.C., the U.S. Territories, and Native communities are using farm to school as an approach to deepen their understanding of food as a tool for cultural connection and celebration. At Warm Spring K-8 Academy on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon, there is urgency to connecting school and community culture to food traditions.  District Superintendent Ken Parnell explains:

You can’t just focus on math and literacy, because the rate of diabetes in our community is heartbreaking. Male life expectancy is 38 years. Many adults die from complications from diabetes. You can’t just say that’s a health concern and leave that in the community (outside of the school), because it affects our students. In my first year, eleven students lost parents. We have a responsibility to start working with students at a young age around nutrition.

The school district has framed farm to school as an opportunity to connect students to local, healthy, and traditional foods, such as root vegetables and salmon.  As the school became more engaged with these traditional foods in the cafeteria, they also realized there were opportunities to extend farm to school activities to families. For example, the school district’s family engagement nights, which turnout up to 1,000 students and family members, provided an exciting opportunity to celebrate healthy, traditional foods on a wider scale. After reflecting of how to better incorporate traditions into family nights, the district planned a powwow where everyone participated in dancing and enjoyed traditional food. Ken added, “It would have been much easier from the (school) kitchen (to work alone), but we worked with tribal partners to prepare traditional foods.”  

Every community has different food and cultural traditions – and that’s worth celebrating! Here are several additional snapshots of how farm to school celebrates traditions, relationships, and an overall connection to community-based food:

- Students in Arkansas are celebrating the holiday season and learning about each other cultures with a recipe swap. One student shared a family recipe dating back to 1911!

- In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, middle school students in rural Iowa learned about table settings, polite dinner conversation, and menu selection. To conclude their class, they enjoyed a Thanksgiving lunch together where they could put all they learned into practice.

- For about 20 Phoenix School culinary students, preparations to feed a Thanksgiving feast to 200 students and staff would not be complete without a trip to the school’s garden. Picking herbs from the garden was among the tasks needed to be finished before Tuesday’s big event.